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Immigrant Arrests Increase Under Trump

FILE - In this Feb. 9, 2017, photo provided U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), ICE agents are seen at a home in Atlanta, Georgia, during a targeted enforcement operation aimed at immigration fugitives, re-entrants and at-large criminal aliens.

The rollback of an Obama-era policy that prioritized the arrest and deportation of immigrants with a criminal background over those without a rap sheet is having the intended effect, according to data provided Wednesday by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The number of people known or suspected of being in the United States illegally who were arrested on civil immigration charges climbed to 41,318 in the first three months of President Donald Trump's administration (Jan. 24 to April 30), compared to 30,028 during the same period in 2016.

Arrests of noncriminals — that is, people without legal status in the U.S. who have not been charged with or convicted of a crime — surged 150 percent from the first day of Trump’s administration to the end of April, up from 4,372 last year to 10,934 this year, according to additional data provided to VOA by ICE on Wednesday.

“These statistics reflect President Trump’s commitment to enforce our immigration laws fairly and across the board,” ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan said in a statement from the agency. Among Trump's first executive orders in January was the change to immigration enforcement.

While ICE touted the increase over last year, the numbers are similar to arrest rates during the Obama administration before a prioritization system was created by then-Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson in late 2014.

Johnson issued a memo outlining guidance that federal law enforcement officers were to focus on arresting immigrants with violent criminal backgrounds or repeat offenders. Those immigrants who were unlawfully in the country but did not have a criminal record were deemed lower priority for enforcement.

The numbers under Trump are not as great as those under the Obama administration before the memo went into effect.

From Jan. 20 to April 29, 2014, for example, ICE officers detained 54,584 people, about 27 percent of whom were noncriminals. Under Trump, that figure is 26 percent, according to the additional data provided to VOA by ICE on Wednesday.

The data from ICE is only part of the arrest and deportation landscape. It does not include figures from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, for example, which annually detains hundreds of thousands of people entering illegally along the country's borders.

Throughout his campaign and into his tenure as president, Trump has regularly associated immigrants with criminality, despite data to the contrary, and repeatedly called for increased deportations.